Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Sixth Sunday after Epiphany - February 11, 2024

Saint Dominic contemplating the Scriptures Saint Dominic contemplating the Scriptures
Author's note:
Sometimes I have material left over when I edit Comments down to fit the available space. This page presents notes that landed on the clipping room floor. Some may be useful to you. While I avoid technical language in the Comments (or explain special terms), Clippings may have unexplained jargon from time to time.

A hypertext Glossary of Terms is integrated with Clippings. Simply click on any highlighted word in the text and a pop-up window will appear with a definition. Bibliographic references are also integrated in the same way.

2 Kings 5:1-14

Verse 1: “the king of Aram”: He is named as Ben-hadad in 8:7 (where Elisha visits him)

Verse 1: “leprosy”: 7:3-16 tells the story of four leprous men who, having realized that they will die of famine whether they stay outside the besieged city or enter it, theydecide “let us desert to the Aramean camp; if they spare our lives, we shall live; and if they kill us, we shall but die.” Leviticus 15:2-13 contains commandments regarding a man who has discharges from his body (then considered a kind of leprosy). [ JBC]

Verse 2: “young girl”: NJBC offers little maid. She is pre-adolescent. [ QVHG]

Verse 5: “ten talents of silver ... ”: According to NOAB, the silver would have weighed about 350 kg (750 lbs). Bringing gifts when approaching a prophet was normal practice: for other examples, see 1 Samuel 9:6-10 (Saul meets Samuel) and 1 Kings 14:2-3 (Jeroboam’s wife approaches the prophet Abijah). [ NJBC]

Verse 5: “He”: i.e. Naaman, not the king of Aram.

Verse 7: “the king of Israel”: Elisha normally had little liking for Jehoram (see 6:30-33) so perhaps this verse comes from a different tradition.

Verse 8: Elisha’s self-assurance contrasts with the king’s agitation. The story revolves around people moving from ignorance and misconception to genuine knowledge. [ NJBC]

Verse 10: “Elisha sent a messenger to him”: The prophet maintains his superiority by dealing with Naaman only through an intermediary. [ NJBC]

Verse 14: “his flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy”: Leviticus 13-14 describes varieties and symptoms of leprosy as recognized in the ancient world. For healing of leprosy in the New Testament, see Matthew 8:2-3; Mark 1:40-42; Luke 5:12-13. For Jesus’ cleansing of lepers as signs of the arrival of the Kingdom, see Matthew 11:5 and Luke 7:22. [ NOAB] Lepers will be cleansed when Christ comes again.

Verses 15-19a: Elisha refuses to accept Naaman’s gift. Naaman asks to take with him “two mule-loads of earth” from Israel, the idea being that a god could only be worshipped in his own land. He would then be able to sanctify the site of an altar to Yahweh. Naaman vows to worship only Yahweh. Naaman will only bow down to “Rimmon” if he is forced to do so; may Yahweh pardon him for such an act. [ NOAB] [ CAB]

Verse 16: “refused”: If he accepts, it will appear that Elisha has effected the cure through his own powers. [ NJBC]

Verse 17: Naaman’s request shows the common ancient misconception that a deity was linked and limited to a particular territory. In Psalm 137:4, the psalmist (or the community) asks: “How could we sing the Lord's song in a foreign land?”. [ NJBC]

Verse 18: Naaman seeks pardon on one count on an ongoing basis: when he escorts his “master” (probably the King of Aram) to the temple of “Rimmon” (another name for Hadad, chief god of Aram), may he be pardoned. [ NOAB]

Verse 18: “Rimmon”: The deity’s full name was Haddad Ramman, Haddad the thunderer. He was the chief god and the storm god of Aram. [ NJBC]

Verse 19: “‘Go in peace’”: Elisha expresses understanding of the compromises Naaman will have to make. [ NJBC]

Verses 20-27: Gehazi, Elisha’s servant, is greedy: he considers that Naaman should have paid for his cure, so he goes after the departing Naaman and falsely asks him for a gift for “two members of the company of prophets” (v. 22). Elisha catches the culprit by extrasensory perception (“in spirit”, v. 26). Gehazi is punished by becoming a leper. [ NJBC]

Verse 24: “citadel”: Presumably of Samaria. [ NJBC]

Verse 26: “go with you in spirit”: Elisha alludes to the clairvoyance for which he was famous. See also 6:12. [ NJBC]

Verse 26: “in spirit”: Chapter 6 tells us more about Elisha’s abilities in extrasensory perception. [ NOAB] See especially 6:12. Gehazi would have been able to buy fine “clothing ...” with the money. [ NJBC]

Verse 27: As in 2:23-25 (where two bears maul some of the boys who taunt Elisha), the point is made that no one can trifle with a prophet with impunity. [ NJBC]

Psalm 30

This psalm was probably sung in fulfilment of a vow. [ NOAB]

Verse 1: “extol”: Literally raise up. The psalmist raises up praise to God, who has raised him up from near death. [ NJBC]

Verse 3: “Sheol ... the Pit”: It is also mentioned in 88:5-6; Job 14:13-19; Genesis 37:35 (Jacob when Joseph is missing from the cistern); 2 Samuel 22:6 (David’s song of thanksgiving when delivered from the hands of Saul). [ NOAB]

Verse 5: The joyful reintegration into the community of one who had been at the point of death. See also 22:23-24. [ NJBC]

Verse 9: “Will the dust praise you?”: See also 6:5 (“For in death there is no remembrance of you; in Sheol who can give you praise?”) and 115:17 (“The dead do not praise the Lord, nor do any that go down into silence”). [ NJBC]

Verse 12: “so that my soul may praise you and not be silent”: See also 115:17. [ NJBC]

1 Corinthians 9:24-27

In 1 Thessalonians 2:7, Paul speaks of his restraint from asserting his rights as an apostle: “... we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children”. [ NOAB]

Verses 1-2: “an apostle”: In 15:8-9, Paul writes: “Then he [Jesus] appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles ...”. See also Galatians 1:1, 11-12; Acts 9:3-6 (Paul’s vision), 17. [ NOAB]

Verse 1: “Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?”: See 15:8 (quoted above). [ NJBC]

Verse 4: i.e. at the expense of the church. [ NOAB]

Verse 5: “the brothers of the Lord”: In Matthew 13:55, some who have heard Jesus in the synagogue ask “... And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?”. That they and “Cephas” (presumably Peter) are mentioned suggests that the opposition to Paul originated in Jerusalem. Of Jesus’ brothers, Paul only names one: James (see Galatians 1:19). See also Mark 3:31; 6:3; Acts 1:14. [ NJBC]

Verse 5: “a believing wife”: Mark 1:30 tells us that Peter was married: “Simon's mother-in-law was in bed with a fever ...”. [ NOAB]

Verse 6: “Barnabas”: He is mentioned in Galatians 2:1 as Paul’s companion on his visit to Jerusalem. In Galatians 1:13, Paul says of him: “even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy”, meaning the hypocrisy of Jerusalem Christians. “Alone” is singular in the Greek so Paul may have suddenly remembered another apostle whose practice mirrored his own. [ NJBC]

Verse 6: “ have no right to refrain from working for a living”: Paul employs four arguments to justify the right to support:

  • le="text-align: justify; text-indent: -0.35in; margin-left: 0.35in">►From common sense (v. 7-8, “on human authority”), an argument also used in 2 Timothy 2:3-6
  • le="text-align: justify; text-indent: -0.35in; margin-left: 0.35in">►Mosaic law (vv. 8-9)
  • le="text-align: justify; text-indent: -0.35in; margin-left: 0.35in">►Ancient cultic practice (v. 13), and
  • le="text-align: justify; text-indent: -0.35in; margin-left: 0.35in">►Jesus’ directive for the Palestinian mission (v. 14) [ NJBC]

Verse 9: The quotation is from Deuteronomy 25:4. The ox has a right to eat the grain. [ NOAB]

Verse 11: A quid pro quo. [ NJBC]

Verse 12: “If others ...”: Other missionaries have passed through Corinth, and have had the right to support accepted. [ NJBC]

Verse 13: In Judaism, this is prescribed in Leviticus 7:28-35. It was also the practice in Hellenic cults. [ NOAB]

Verse 14: In Luke 10:7, Jesus tells the pairs of emissaries he sends out: “Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the labourer deserves to be paid”. Deuteronomy 25:4 and this verse are quoted in 1 Timothy 5:18. [ NOAB]

Verses 15-18: In 2 Corinthians 11:7-12, Paul says that his mission to the Corinthians is financed by “friends who came from Macedonia”. [ NOAB]

Verse 17: “entrusted with a commission”: In Galatians 1:15-17, Paul tells us “ ... when God, who had set me apart before I was born and called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, so that I might proclaim him among the Gentiles, ... I went away at once into Arabia, and afterwards I returned to Damascus.” [ NJBC]

Verse 18: “free of charge”: NJBC sees this as a feeble joke. The wages of one not entitled to any is to work for nothing!

Verse 18: “not to make full use of”: The verb in Greek is katachraomai, meaning overuse. NJBC says that Paul uses this word deliberately to disguise a mental reservation, because while at Corinth he was subsidized from Macedonia.

Verses 20-22: Paul proceeds with his mission with consideration and tact, not cowardice and compromise. [ NOAB]

Verse 21: This verse is difficult to understand; in Comments I present a general understanding of vv. 19-23. Blk1Cor says “this is one of the most difficult sentences in the epistle”. It is perhaps helpful to recall Galatians 6:2, where the “law of Christ” is fulfilled by bearing one another’s burdens, i.e. in love. Christ fulfills “God’s law” but now love helps us to be obedient to God, as Paul is: he is “entrusted with a commission”. NJBC also sees an allusion to the “law-less” at Corinth, i.e. those who saw no requirement for ethical behaviour because the Second Coming was thought to be so close. See 6:12 and 10:23.

Verse 22: Comments: eating meat left over from pagan rites : In 8:12-13, Paul submits himself to the conscience (and discipline) of the “weak” and recommends such discipline to others who have progressed significantly in their journeys of faith: “... when you thus sin against members of your family, and wound their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ”. [ NJBC]

Verse 22: “win the weak”: As will become clear in 10:23-11:1, the hearts of the weak also needed to be changed. [ NJBC]

Verses 24-27: Athletic metaphors on the importance of self-discipline out of consideration for others. [ NOAB] In a sense, Paul trains himself to better carry out his God-given commission.

We need to guard against thinking that by working hard for Christ we will attain justification (oneness with God) – based on this reading alone; as always, we need to read, and understand all the Pauline epistles, indeed the Bible as a whole. Justification, and eternal life, are God’s freely given gift.

It is grace and not works that give us eternal life, but to be fair, that is a theological position that it took one and a half millennia for the Church to reach.

Paul's letters are occasional in nature and thus he may not always be internally consistent on certain points and this may be one of them. He is very strong on grace in Romans, but in Corinthians the problem is different, so he may not have had this particular question in mind when he chose the sports metaphor. Furthermore, metaphors are limited. He clearly is suggesting to the Corinthians that you can't just sit back on the laurels of your baptism, but that authentic Christian life involves effort and discipline lest you lose “the prize” (v. 24). That very phrase, lose the prize puts the certainty of eternal life into some doubt, which is also something that we would find difficult theologically, especially if it depends on grace.

My comment about one and a half millennia stems from the fact that one of the cornerstones of Luther's reform was justification by grace through faith which was essentially a debate about grace versus works. It's one of the reasons he didn't much like James – he called it the epistle of straw, because it focuses so clearly on the need for works as well as faith: James 2:14 seems to say faith without works is dead. Luther focussed instead on Romans, where the supremacy of grace over works shines forth. [A. T. Perry]

Mark 1:40-45

The parallels are Matthew 8:2-4 and Luke 5:12-16. [ NOAB]

The first part of the story, vv. 40-42, follows the usual outline of healing accounts: the disease is described; Jesus heals; and the healing is clearly complete. Then it is complicated by Jesus’ command that he show himself to the priest (vv. 43-44). [ NJBC]

Verse 40: “make me clean”: The Greek word, katharisai , could mean declare clean. So the leper may be asking Jesus rather than the Jerusalem priests to declare him ritually pure; however everything in the present form of the story indicates that the leper is seeking a cure. [ NJBC]

Verse 42: “leprosy”: CAB says that the unidentified skin ailment was probably a form of mould and not Hansen’s disease (which we commonly call leprosy.) NJBC says that leprosy was a general term for repulsive skin diseases including psoriasis, favus, and seborrheic dermatitis. Leviticus 13 describes the various kinds of afflictions and their detection by the priests.

Verse 43: “sternly warning”: To CAB, this is what effects the cure. This he says may be a variant of Jesus’ commanding word, his rebuke, to the “demons” (v. 25).

Verses 43-44: Jesus wishes the healing to carry with it a spiritual obligation. [ NOAB]

Verse 44: “say nothing to anyone”: This may be part of the messianic secret device found elsewhere in Mark, but it may only indicate Jesus’ command that the man present himself to the priest-inspectors as soon as possible. [ NJBC]

Comments: he touches the man – thus making himself ritually unclean : The regulation is in Leviticus 15:5.

Verse 45: Whether this verse belongs to the story is in some doubt. As part of the story, the man appears to disobey Jesus and goes against Jesus’ desire to keep his true identify secret. [ NJBC]

Verse 45: “he”: If this refers to Jesus, the verse begins a new paragraph, summarizing Jesus’ activity between 1:40-44 and 2:1-12 in terms already used in 1:38. When “he” is taken as Jesus, the problem of the man’s disobedience disappears and the connection with the messianic secret vanishes.

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